Voter turnout in Tarrant County was just above 8.9% with 107,031 voters out of 1.2 million registered voters casting ballots in various municipal elections on May 6.
Voter turnout for Tarrant County in the May 2021 municipal elections saw 14.2% of voters head to the polls with 165,898 out of 1.2 million registered voters casting ballots.
However, there was a special election that year for the U.S. House of Representatives to replace District 6 Rep. Ron Wright, R-Mansfield, who died in February 2021. The race was contentious with Wright’s wife, Susan Wright, eventually losing in a runoff to Jake Elizey.
In the race for Fort Worth mayor, 42,245 voters cast ballots. In the May 2021 municipal elections, 66,658 voters cast ballots for the mayoral contest.
A less competitive mayoral race at the top of the ballot often leads to lower turnout, said Emily Farris, a TCU political science professor.
Following record turnout in 2021, turnout in 2023 is more in line with historical trends. Lack of voter engagement is a persistent problem in local politics at large, said Brian Adams, a political science professor at San Diego State University.
Part of the low voter turnout can be attributed to the fact that many municipalities hold their elections in an off-cycle year — in other words, an odd-numbered year where there are not high-profile state and national races on the ballot.
Proponents say this maintains the nonpartisan nature of local elections; opponents say that holding local elections separately makes it harder to get voters to the polls.
“When you have low voter turnout, it generally means that the electorate is older, whiter and wealthier,” Adams said. “The people who drop off the voting pool are generally going to be younger people, lower income individuals and so forth.”
While the city and media outlets work to inform voters about how and when to vote, Fort Worth is working from behind when it comes to voter turnout, Mayor Mattie Parker said. Larger cities such as Chicago, whose elected officials are more involved in the day-to-day operations of the city, often see much higher turnout, she said.
“I am dedicated, even if I’m not in this seat anymore in the future, to make sure more people participate and engage and who’s elected and who’s running,” Parker said.
Early voting began April 24 and ended May 2. Runoffs will take place June 10.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com.